Redemptive Sacrifice Done Right: On Shadow Weaver

Redemption through sacrifice is an old motif that has gotten more attention in recent popular media. Redemption arcs are powerful when done correctly, but they are also difficult to execute and require specific story structures to support them. Writers who want the powerful singular moment of redemption with less of the work required to earn it often use sacrifice as a shortcut. When a character’s life ends in the service of the people they have wronged, it can seem like the ultimate return payment for the harm they have caused, but can also be emotionally cheap. Without an effort to actually make right the wrongs of one’s past, a redemptive sacrifice can seem like an effort to suffer enough that some cosmic scale is balanced, a retributive impulse turned inward rather than a restorative one aimed outward. Worse, destroying oneself in a sacrificial blaze can also seem like an effort to escape accountability and prevent an honest reckoning with one’s legacy. For these reasons, I have grown to resent the idea of characters experiencing redemption through destroying themselves.

But one piece of media managed this difficult task with impossible grace, and that is She-Ra and the Princesses of Power. The story of Shadow Weaver might be the only time in my conscious memory that I have seen a redemptive sacrifice work. And to understand why, we have to go through Shadow Weaver’s story.

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Redemptive Sacrifice Done Right: On Shadow Weaver
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My Time Among the Tankies

The online left is a very, very strange place. It’s full of people who are all urgently certain of how right they are and how wrong everyone else is. It’s loud and hostile, with minor ideological differences turning into over-dramatic schisms in bizarrely little time. Vast slices of it are chronically, toxically vigilant, waiting with unwholesome eagerness to be the one who gets to turn on or cast out someone else for a misstep. Dial all of that up to 11, and you get the tankies.

For those who don’t know, “tankies” are devotees of the strand of leftist thinking usually called Marxism-Leninism, the philosophy of Josef Stalin rather than the eponymous Marx and Lenin. An extension of this idea, Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, incorporates thoughts from Mao Zedong. They get the name “tankie” from their penchant for defending the less defensible actions of the Soviet Union and similar governments throughout history, in particular the mechanized (hence “tankie”) invasion of Hungary during its anti-communist revolt in 1956. In the modern era, long arguments about specific events from 70 years ago are far less salient than their modern corollaries. Tankies are, these days, characterized by their full-throated defenses of modern China and North Korea, which become more and more uncomfortable the clearer it becomes that some rather nefarious things are happening in those countries.

Here’s where I come in.

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My Time Among the Tankies

There Is Always Work

In the late capitalist hellscape of our age, it is common for people to lament that there isn’t enough work. People string together menial part-time jobs, run themselves ragged on gig-economy schemes that are tailor-made to not deliver an actual living, and linger in overqualified underemployment for years on end because there just isn’t work. Immigrants get demonized because they “take” work from born citizens, providing a pretext for legalized racism. Economists and politicians fret about how little work there is and how it forces them into no-win decisions, trying to guard and cultivate work for a restive populace.

It is all lies.

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There Is Always Work

There Are Words For Us: What “Striking Vipers” Did Wrong

Transformation and exchange are two of the most thematically interesting ways to explore gender and relationships in fiction. This isn’t a new idea, with the story of Tiresias providing an example from Greek antiquity. Such stories can range from ignorant and banal to nuanced and powerful. As a trans woman, I have long held a fascination with them, and they ultimately helped me come to understand what I wanted from my body and my life. “Striking Vipers,” the first episode of season 5 of Black Mirror, is neither of these, instead being a tragic, wasteful misfire that perhaps handles some of its other themes better than this one.

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There Are Words For Us: What “Striking Vipers” Did Wrong

Future Dive

We always picked the Crawlspace. Nobody really liked the Crawlspace. Some of the roof is strapped to the half-dead chestnut tree whose roots are damaging the sidewalk outside, and the constant drip in that part of the bar was used to water a bamboo that no one dared call lucky. At least one bar stool was half of a barber’s chair that the owners never bothered to unbolt from the floor after buying Crabbie’s Cuts, and it still smelled like old hair. We were pretty sure that the combination of fluids that, over the years, made the light brown stain at the far corner swell to take up half of the floor would make a health inspector blanch, but the last health inspector who looked at the Crawlspace did an about-face at the door while reciting “NOPE” under his breath, so, that hasn’t been a problem.
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Future Dive

We Are Not Ironic Comeuppance

There are two comments that are rarely far off when self-proclaimed allies encounter anti-queer politicians.

“I bet he’s secretly queer.”

“I hope he ends up with a queer kid.”

Naïve, ironic, and insensitive in the trademark way of ignorant would-be allies, these comments rankle deeply. Much has been written about how the first of the two effectively assigns all responsibility for society-wide anti-queerness on queer people and absolves from same the straight people who invented and perpetrate it, so today’s topic is the other one.

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We Are Not Ironic Comeuppance

What’s in a TERF?

CN suicide, transmisogyny, violence

To the endless bafflement of people whose sense of ethical behavior does not include driving strangers to self-harm, the transgender community faces intense hostility. What is interesting in our case is that people with extraordinarily different overall ideologies come to equally intense hatred of transgender people in general and trans women in particular, and this makes some words we are tempted to use to encompass all of our detractors a poor fit. This brings is to that famously deadly group, the TERFs.

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What’s in a TERF?

Treize Khushrenada You Beautiful Asshole: Gundam Wing in the Age of Fascism

[CN for PTSD and associated traumas, attempted suicide. Abundant spoilers for an anime from 1995.]

Rewatching old favorites is always a fraught endeavor. Often, what one enjoyed in one’s youth is riddled with bigotry one didn’t yet have the tools or sensibilities to recognize, and rewatching replaces the nostalgic glow of the past with foul reality. This is what I braced for when rewatching Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, one of the shows that first introduced me to Japanese animation. Instead, I received a curiously philosophical examination of war, peace, extremism, and what all of these things can do to young people trapped in the middle.

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Treize Khushrenada You Beautiful Asshole: Gundam Wing in the Age of Fascism